The International Test of English Proficiency has been granted a special education exemption to the US trade embargo by the US Treasury Department to open the exam centres in Tabriz and Tehran.
“Iran is poised to resume sending large numbers of students to the US, and we are now on the ground there to facilitate”
The test can be used to support applications to more than 600 education institutions, mostly in the US, as well as by Iranian organisations to evaluate the English proficiency of their applicants, students, and employees.
As diplomatic relations between the two countries improve, Perry Akins, chairman of BES, which administers the iTEP, predicted that the US could see an influx of Iranian students in the coming years.
“Enrolments are down at colleges, high schools, and English programmes across the US due to cuts in funding for scholarships for Saudi Arabian students,” he said.
“Iran is poised to resume sending large numbers of students to the US, and we are now on the ground there to facilitate.”
However, Akins added that the number of tests that will be administered this year is largely dependent on if the US opens a consulate in Iran, in order to allow for Iranian students to apply for visas in Iran.
“We believe that in the not too distant future, a US consulate will be opened in Tehran. If this occurs, many thousands of iTEP tests will be administered in Iran this year,” he said.
“Without a US consulate in Iran, iTEP will still be administered to students applying to US colleges and universities who are willing to travel abroad to apply for their visas, as well as students applying to PhD and graduate programmes within Iran that have an English proficiency requirement,” he explained. “However, it is too early to know what these numbers will look like.”
The move into Iran brings the test company’s global reach to 49 countries worldwide.
Before the US imposed trade sanctions on Iran in 1981, it was the biggest source country for international students going to the US. In 2014 it had fallen to 12th place, with just under 10,200 Iranian students at US institutions – less than a fifth of the number that had been in the country in 1979.
However, numbers have begun to climb in recent years, due partly to a concerted effort on the part of the US State Department to promote the US as a study destination, opening up opportunities for international education stakeholders.
Other US-based education companies have been targeting learners in Iran as the two countries have worked towards the lifting of some sanctions earlier this year, with Coursera restoring access for Iranian students to many of its online courses in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Institute of International Education has been leading the effort to build educational ties between the two countries, including leading a delegation of US university representatives to Iran last year.